PROJECT TWO: WIDER SUPPORT

Two years after the first build was completed, the County Council finally agreed to complete Stonesfield Primary school on one site. It had for the previous 25 years shared the tiny old church school and two modern classrooms in a field across the road. Neither building had a large enough room for indoor P.E., or for the whole school to assemble together. To finance the new building, the county elected to sell the quarter-acre site of an old pub it had demolished, tarmaced and added to the church school play area.

As the Trust now had a track record as the first body successfully to produce low-cost housing in a rural community, West Oxon District Council's Chief Officer Neil Robson persuaded his Policy Sub-committee to grant Stonesfield Community Trust an £80,000 loan, interest-free for 12 months, to secure that piece of land while it got a scheme approved and raised the finance to build. Five houses were designed: four one-bed starter homes and one with two beds, adapted for disabled use, with bedrooms large enough for a double bed and a wheel-chair.

This time, a Norwegian architect, Randi Berild MNAL, was used. In a small 25 sq. metre footprint, she designed the houses with hall, shower/loo/laundry, and bedroom at the back away from traffic noise, on the ground floor, and stairs leading up to a high-ceilinged combined kitchen/diner/lounge with light from at least two sides. This gave the maximum sense of space and light in a small package. When Planning Committee member questioned the ground floor bedrooms, Lady Elizabeth Higgs, a member exclaimed "Of course! In the 18th century people always lived in their best room, which was on the first floor."

Environment-friendliness was paramount. The inner leaf of cavity wall was 213 mm aerated Thermalite. Roofs were insulated with borax-treated cellulose, and no irritant fibres or toxic solvents were used. All paints were organic, and doors and windows imported from Sweden meant that one of the first tenants reported a winter quarter gas bill for space heating and hot water of only £25!

The planners allowed rendered block construction although the houses were in the conservation area, on the basis that a German-made masonry paint giving a particularly attractive finish was used. Once again, car parking was tucked away behind the buildings, in amongst trees and shrubs, with each house having its own patio looking out onto a shared garden area with a clothes-drying canopy. The development was named Rose & Crown after the pub formerly standing on the site - whose cellar had to be filled with concrete before building could begin.